Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Tuesday came out strongly in support of the 49 celebrities against whom an FIR was lodged last week in Bihar's Muzaffarpur for writing a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that highlighted the growing incidents of mob lynching in India.
In an open letter addressed to Modi, Tharoor said he was "deeply disturbed" by the FIR filed against the authors of the open letter and urged the Prime Minister to publically welcome dissent even if it was against him or his government.
“As the citizens of India we hope that every one of us fearlessly bring to your notice issues of national importance, so that you can take the lead to address them. We would like to believe that you too would support the right to freedom of expression so that the ‘mann ki baat’ of the well-meaning citizens of India does not turn into ‘maun ki baat’,” he said.
Urging all those who believe in #FreedomOfExpression to send this or similar letters to @PMOIndia @narendramodi urging him to affirm the constitutional principle of our Article 19 rights & the value of democratic dissent — even if more FIRs follow as a result! #SaveFreeSpeech pic.twitter.com/MDIrros64j— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) October 8, 2019
The letter added that there was no "democracy without dissent". "Our great country is built on the bedrock of coexistence of diverse and often diverging views and ideologies. This is what makes India a successful and vibrant democracy. Those who criticise or have opposing views to yours should not be deemed enemies or anti-national," he said.
On October 4, an FIR was lodged against nearly 50 celebrities, including Ramchandra Guha, Mani Ratnam and Aparna Sen, who had written an open letter to PM Modi raising concern over the growing incidents of mob lynching.
Written in July, the letter said lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately, while stressing that there was "no democracy without dissent". It also noted that Jai Shri Ram had been reduced to a "provocative war cry".
Tharoor questioned if action against dissenters was indicative of the 'Naya Bharat' PM Modi wishes to create. "Since when has writing a letter of concern to the elected leader of the country... the trigger for an FIR? Is the 'Naya Bharat' (New India) you wish to create one where citizens shall not be heard and their concerns not addressed?" he asked.